Friday, April 21, 2017

Jury Duty

It’s been an interesting week. I was called in to jury duty on Monday. The original summons was for last fall and I postponed it. When I got the April date, it seemed like it was forever in the future. But then suddenly the future had become the present.

Normally I would have no problem doing jury duty, but I had to go to the court in downtown Los Angeles which they claim is nineteen miles away, but if you look at the summons, they show it in a straight line, as if I was a crow who could fly over the mountains and twists and turns to get there. And we had a seminar on Thursday, along with my looming deadline for the next Crochet Mystery.

I decided to look at it like an adventure and at the same time hope I didn’t end up on a trial. Downtown L.A. is a total mystery to me. The streets are all cockeyed and I have spent very little time there and most of it has been in a car driving through to somewhere else.

I was dropped off at the court house by my family as they headed to Long Beach for an appointment. The plan was I would take public transportation home.

I was called to a jury panel shortly after I got there and since I was given the number 27, was not questioned in the first group. We broke for lunch shortly after that and I decided to look around outside for someplace to get food. I walked outside right into a protest. Cops in riot gear were standing, waiting. People were yelling and for some reason were also playing loud music. On my way back, the protest had moved into the intersection and people were sitting in the street blocking traffic.

I was still sitting in the audience in the court room when the day ended and we all had to come back for a second day. And now it was time for me to find my way to the train station. I followed the path my phone showed me. It might have been the shortest route, but hardly the most pleasant. When I looked up from the phone I was in the middle of a homeless encampment with tents and sketchy people wandering around, along with unseen dogs barking a warning as I past.

I had to cross through a small park with more sketchy people, but at least by now I could see Union Station. It’s a grand looking Spanish style building with a tower in the front and hard to miss. The last time I was there we were seeing my son off on a high school trip and the place was deserted. The rows of ticket booths were not in use anymore. There were seats for waiting, but few people in them. There might have been a magazine stand, but no other businesses. And the board listing the trains coming and going appeared pretty bare.

But things have changed since then. The subway, light rail and a train system called Metrolink all have hubs at Union Station. The ticket booths are still not in use and actually roped off. Most of the seats are gone and the ones left are roped off, too, as if they are a museum exhibit of how things used to be. But there is a café and some other business like snack bars and shoe shine stand. The biggest surprise was how many people were heading to trains.

There were plenty of people to ask for directions and I bought my ticket from a real person instead of having to fuss with a machine. I found my track and the train was waiting. Inside it was spacious with even a large clean rest room. There were plugs to charge electronics at each seat as well. The only short coming was the view during the ride. Most of it can only be described as ucky. Lots and lots of graffiti and beat up looking buildings. It was only after we passed Van Nuys that there were houses and tree lined streets. When I got off in Northridge, it felt weird, like I was entering a familiar place from another door so that everything seemed different.

I got a ride the next morning again and expected I’d be excused or on the jury for sure that day. The plan was I would take the train to Pasadena and walk to our office there. The Pasadena train is part of the light rail system and passes through more a more scenic area than the Metrolink. I had found a better path to the train station without the going through the homeless encampment and I was actually looking forward to the trip.

But the thing about adventures is that you never know what will happen. I was finally questioned for the jury. We had only been given vague details of what the case was about. It had to do with road rage and the defendant making threats and also having a concealed gun in his vehicle. From what I heard, I think the person he was threatening might have been an off duty cop. I think my fate was sealed by a few things that I said. The judge asked me if I had any technical advisors for my writing and I mentioned going to Writers Police Academy and being able to ask an ATF officer how to make a homemade silencer. Then there was the story about my daughter in law having someone stick a gun in her car window and attempt to car jack her at a stop light on way to her teaching job (this happened a long time ago). The whole court room gasped when I said the part about the gun.

The judge didn’t ask me, but I finished the story by explaining that she stepped on the gas and drove over the guys foot and kept going.

Anyway, I was excused from the jury barely an hour after I got there. It was so early, I ended up getting picked up and went with my family to our Pasadena office.

It was an interesting experience. I liked watching all the people in the court room. I even liked finding my way around downtown. And it was my chance to figure out why downtown Los Angeles is visually so unappealing. The buildings don’t have stores and eating places facing the street, which makes it seem very desolate. I actually had to stop a woman on the street to ask her where there was a place to get lunch. She showed me a food court that was below the street. It is like everything is facing inward and is inside, which seems odd since the whole feeling about L.A. is all about being able to be outside year round.

And now it’s time to resume my normal life..


ldosborn said...

Oh, Jury Duty--I was questioned in front of a snarling guy who was later convicted of the murders of 14 young men. I knew a couple of college kids who were studying to be lawyers, so I got out of that one. I got out of a child abuse case because I had always worked in schools. I usually get the phone-in type summons, and don't have to go. The "big" court in Santa Ana is much like LA, dreadful ! The somewhat less serious cases are tried in Fullerton, which is right across the street from a Sizzler, not bad for a lunch break !

Betty Hechtman said...

ldosborn, the cases you were up for sounds very upsetting and I'm sure you were relieved not to be on either case. I was actually on a jury once a long time ago. It was a burglary case and an interesting experience.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I was on jury duty during law school and found it interesting then. I've been summoned subsequently and for various reasons was excused--and was glad about it. It's an interesting experience, though--and can always be used for writing research.

Betty Hechtman said...

The interesting point about jury duty is that everyone has their own story.